Behavioral Microanalysis of Helping Interactions Between Mothers and Adult Children with Mental Retardation

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Although direct observation has provided much information regarding caregiver-care recipient interactions, our understanding of the applications of this technique remains incomplete. This study expands upon earlier observational work by examining adults with mental retardation (MR) and their family caregivers in the home setting. Specialized computer software was used to conduct real-time observation and recording of interactional styles of maternal caregivers of eight younger (M = 23 years old) and eight older (M = 49 years old) MR adults during two cognitive tasks: block design and card sorting. Differences in the amount and type of assistance provided by the caregiver were examined by coding the occurrence and duration of seven interactional behaviors. The results demonstrated that the caregivers of the younger adults used more positive statements and modeling/gestural prompts, whereas the caregivers of the older adults provided more physical assistance and performed more of the tasks themselves. More importantly, this project provided information regarding interactions between MR adults and their maternal caregivers and demonstrated the utility of computer-assisted data collection technology with a community-based, nondemented population.

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